Review: The Lightest Object in the Universe by Kimi Eisele

Book Review #1. Here goes…

Back before little brother was born, I picked this ARC up at the ABA’S Winter Institute, with every intention of reading it on my maternity leave. What did I actually do on maternity leave? Stare at my newborn baby in wonder. A lot. Return to the hospital with a staph infection on my newborn baby for a scary three days (as it turned out, it was as mild as a staph infection on a newborn might be). Try to entertain a toddler while also nursing an infant once we returned home. And watch all four seasons of Outlander. More than once. Reading was not my priority. Hence, blog as motivation.

I read this book in the physical form, although audiobooks are currently saving my reading life a lot. So, no news on the narrator for this one. When I picked this ARC up, it was purely because the author called it literary science fiction, which is my jam. I actually knew nothing about the plot. But it’s also post-apocalyptic, and who doesn’t love that? (To be read with absolutely zero sarcasm.)

Generally, I like my post-apocalyptic fiction like I like my literary fiction: the more broken my heart is at the end, the better. This book did not break my heart. There were some gritty bits; it’s post-apocalyptic, after all. Overall, though, it just made me think about our current world and my place in it. Other than producing new citizens of the world, am I contributing something good? At three months postpartum, I feel like raising my tiny world citizens may be the best I can do, and it’s not a small thing, but looking to the future, when I’m out of the sleep-deprived haze, I’d like to do more. These are not little things for a work of fiction to have me considering. Bravo, Kimi Eisele.

The most important thing for me to say about this book is that it’s beautifully and entrancingly written. I love genre fiction that’s focus is tight plotting as much as the next person, but damn do I also love pretty writing. The plotting of this book starts slow and meandering, but gathers speed as it goes on. You get to know the lovely, flawed, human characters along the way. It’s gorgeous.

The premise is that a large portion of the population dies from a horrid flu and somehow technology is wiped out, but this all happens before the story. A school principal from the east coast decides to trek across the country to find his love on the west coast. We swap perspectives periodically, so we get to follow both his journey and his love’s efforts to help rebuild her community while staying put. You get to see the good and the bad in people on the road and in a neighborhood. It’s a debut novel, but you’d never know it. It’s sweeping and hopeful and will restore your faith in humanity.

I definitely recommend The Lightest Object in the Universe.

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